Friday’s Finds: October 2, 2015

Every week I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on the internet that struck a chord with me. I call these: Friday’s Finds. Please excuse the messy start, as I find my rhythm for these posts.

There is pretty good evidence that hunger is an issue today; and, will become a bigger issue as we race toward 9 billion people on the planet.

Not only do we not have enough to eat, we have an even bigger gap on those things we should be eating: vegetables.

  • The U.S. Doesn’t Have Enough Of The Vegetables We’re Supposed To Eat : The Salt : NPR
    “Although this week’s USDA report focuses on the limited variety of vegetables available to American shoppers, other agency data suggest that the country simply doesn’t offer enough vegetables, period. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimated that the U.S. vegetable supply would need to increase by 70 percent — almost entirely in dark leafy greens, orange vegetables and legumes — in order for Americans to meet recommended daily allowances at the time.”
How will we feed 9 billion people the food they should be eating? Does everyone see an opportunity to make some money? You bet!
Technical opportunities abound! Why shouldn’t we take technology that is being used everyday in factories and stores and put them to work in the field or orchard?
  • Let The Robots And iPhones Tend The Crops | Popular Science
    For centuries, farming was an intuitive process. Today, it’s networked, analytical, and data-driven. Large farms (1,000 acres or more) started the trend, adopting the tools of precision agriculture—using GPS-guided tractors, drones, and computer modeling to customize how each inch of land is farmed. Farm managers can measure and map things like soil acidity and nitrogen levels, and then apply fertilizer to specific plants—not just spray and pray. As a result, they get the most out of every seed they plant. Such methods have reduced farm costs by an average of 15 percent and increased yields by 13 percent, according to a 2014 survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Lot of potential technical solutions to potential problems. Having relatively new eyes on this domain – precision ag – I wonder if the problems are really valid; or if this is just a technology looking for problems to solve. I’m a supporter of tech looking to solve problems as a starting place, but it always seems that after the initial feel-good-rush, everyone has to stop, stand back, and ask: “What’s the problem again?”
  • Grounded: Can big data do for agri-business what it’s not doing for retail? • The Register
    We know that farming will only get harder as the planet warms and the soils dry, so we need every bit of help we can get if we’re going to add another thirty to forty percent to our agricultural output. And we need that revolution everywhere, so that a farmer growing potatoes on the side of a volcano in Rwanda can use his smartphone to photograph his small fields, upload them to a cloud-based AI, which will then tell the farmer how to manage those soils, week-by-week, and crop by crop.
  • Drones on the farm: 7 ways they are helping farmers | Farm and Ranch Journal – Ag News and Feature Articles
    In the future, drones will likely increase in popularity among farmers, as the technology develops and people figure out new applications for agriculture. Farmers, taking advantage of this technological revolution will hopefully improve their farm operations and make their jobs a little less difficult in the process.
Big Data and Drones and Mobile are all fun; but is there enough evidence that it’s helpful? Can ag use Big Data to affect consumer behavior? Or should Ag even try?
Sometimes letting bankers and businesses say what’s working came back to bite you. Have underfunded universities completed the research validating the effectiveness? Have governments and non-profits found the best way to make this happen? Is it scalable? Or will we leave the little farmer out in the cold, again?
  • Volkswagen discovery made by university engineers | Farm Industry News Blog
    A lot of ag benefits come from university research and as we enter a time of greater need to boost productivity, we need to look at all angles. Sure, major crop protection, seed and machinery companies are working to boost productivity, but there are ideas out there that don’t sell another gallon of crop protection product, or force you to buy bigger equipment – we need to know about those too.
Every decision we make has effects that we don’t intend. We need to make sure that we see at least one or two growing seasons into the future.
  • The Second and Third Order Consequences! | Thinkin’ Things Over
    Every decision has second and third order consequences to that decision; i.e., outcomes that are different than the first desired outcome yet are directly related to the initial decision. They are most often separated by time and space from the perspective of the decision.
Friday’s Finds: October 2, 2015

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